8 ways to ace customer satisfaction surveys

Okay, I have an admission to make. I actually like filling in surveys. But I’ve come to realise that I might be alone in this, and that most people would actually rather be forced to have lunch with Donald Trump that fill in a survey, unless there’s a substantial reward for doing so.

So as a marketer, how do you put together customer satisfaction surveys that your customers actually feel compelled to fill in? Well I’ve done a bit of digging, and here are eight things to consider when you next start crafting a survey: 

1. Ask fewer questions…

This may seem a tad obvious, but so many surveys include too many unnecessary, superfluous questions. How many of them will actually provide useful results? See if you can cut down your survey to five to 10 questions – you’re much more likely to get a meaningful number of responses and results you can actually do something with. This also means you may not need to incentivise respondents, saving precious budget in the process. 

2. ...and ask the right ones

Make sure you’re thinking about it from the customer’s point of view – what’s important to them? Also, are you looking to find out about how satisfied your customers are, or determine how they feel about particular aspects of your service or product offering? 

Think about the way your questions are worded – remember when the Brexit vote wording had to be changed back in September 2015? The electoral commission switched it from ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?’ to ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ in order to avoid influencing voters. 

3. Share the survey with the right people… 

Of course the right people need to be filling in your survey – if only your most loyal customers are taking part you’re unlikely to get a representative view of satisfaction levels among your wider customer base. Are the right people in your client companies taking part? And although they’re harder to reach, ex-customers are likely to have valuable insights and stories, and could provide a good idea of what the competition’s doing too. 

4. … at the right time

There are times when customers will be more engaged and open to interaction, so consider when you’re asking them to complete your survey. It might be just after onboarding, or after troubleshooting an issue, for example – whenever it is, pick a time when their experience with your brand is as fresh as possible (as long as you make sure it's still a representative sample of your customers). 

5. Keep sales in the loop

Make use of your sales team – if they know about the survey you’re running they’ll be able to share it with the right people. Encouraging customers to take part will give them a good reason to re-engage with certain clients too.  

6. Set clear goals

I’m sure you’ve been there… renewals start dropping off and somebody senior says: ‘Let’s do a customer satisfaction survey!’ But this approach on its own is unlikely to be of value to your customers in the long term. You need to have a clear goal outlined: what do you want to learn from the survey and how do you plan to act upon the results? Have you identified a particular problem with your customer service that needs to be resolved? Bear in mind that customer satisfaction surveys are better for measuring short-term satisfaction, while net promoter score (NPS) can help to gauge long-term happiness and loyalty. 

7. Act on the results

Your customers probably care more about their plans for the weekend than whether or not you followed up on that survey they filled in months ago. But this isn’t an excuse not to act on the results. When you’re setting out the goals of the survey, think carefully about how the findings will inform future strategy and customer experience programmes, and plan follow-up surveys to ensure you can demonstrate progress. 

8. Question whether it’s really necessary

Why are you choosing a traditional survey above other means of gathering customer feedback? It may be the case that a survey isn’t the most effective way of engaging your customers and getting their thoughts, so it’s worth exploring other options, whether that’s speaking to them following customer service calls or contacting them at particular milestones in the customer journey.